Why Google’s All Access and Rdio Still Don’t Beat Spotify

Spotify logo
Spotify logo

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the music industry is moving more and more towards the streaming model. The music industry is basically posing 2 questions to the general music buying public:

Would you prefer to…

  1. Purchase only those songs and albums that you want to hear at a price of $0.60 – $1.29 for a single song or $7 – $15 for an album
  2. Pay a monthly fee of $7 – $10 and get access to all the music in that store’s catalog

It seems like the “powers that be” are betting on the streaming model. Now the problem becomes which service should customers choose. Companies currently offering this model are Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, Slacker, and (most recently) Google Play Music All Access. Apple is also planning on joining the crowd with a service being referred to as iRadio.

I’ve actually used all of these services, or at least the parts I could evaluate for free. Not counting Apple’s iTunes/iRadio since it hasn’t been released yet. I’ve determined that Spotify beats all the other for one main reason: They don’t limit you. Spotify allows you to listen to any song in their catalog for free at any time and even build playlists as long as you don’t mind hearing a commercial after every 2 or 3 songs. Rdio and Google only offer the trial model, letting you listen to any song in their catalog for 30 days before they block you out (requesting payment) and limit you to 30 second samples. Rdio allows you to make playlists but if you don’t pay they’ll put all that in a choke hold and limit every song to 30 seconds.

Slacker, in my opinion, is way better than Pandora because it has a nicer user interface and better stations. However, Slacker (like Pandora) doesn’t allow you to control what songs you want to hear or when you want to hear them without you paying first. Pandora is actually the worst of the bunch and they have a history of not paying artists royalties. Pandora has even gone far enough as to ask Congress to decrease the amount of royalties they have to pay artists.

So, Spotify’s ad-supported full length streaming plus the ability to make playlists is what makes them stand above the others. Spotify only limits those customers trying to listen via a smart device, which (again) is acceptable compared to how the other services limit you.

Something I’ve been personally doing is using Spotify to discover new music. Here’s how I do that:

  • First, I might hear a song on FM radio, whether I’m listening to an FM station in my car or if I’m using an app like TuneIn or MixCloud. While I’m listening to the song playing, if I like it, I’ll open the SoundHound or Shazam app I’ve intalled on my iPod and try to identify the song playing.
  • Sometime after I’ve “tagged” the song with Shazam or SoundHound, I’ll hop on Spotify and search for that artist/song/album and enjoy listening to all their work. I’ve discovered tons of new music doing this.
  • Another thing I’ll do: If I’m on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, or any other physical/digital store where music is sold. I’ll see something that I want to listen to in full, before I purchase it, and I’ll head over to Spotify to listen to it in full. I do this because (as most know) you can only hear a 30 second sample in the digital stores and you can’t hear it at all in a physical store. Spotify makes purchasing music less of a gamble.

Of course, I’m not even touching on the concept of music ownership. But that’s for another blog…

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Major Label’s Greed May Kill iRadio

iRadio logo
iRadio logo

Industry sources are saying that Google’s willingness to acquiesce to music label demands and the structure of the hybrid service Apple is trying to build are the main reasons why the search giant’s music service is live now while the iPhone maker’s offering might miss WWDC.

Google rolled out All Access for Google Play Music users this week during the keynote for its I/O developer conference, beating Apple by at least weeks to what some industry players hope will be the future of music: subscription-based services. Meanwhile, Apple’s status as a hardware tech giant isn’t helping it as much as it would have hoped with the music labels, sources tell The Verge.

One obstacle to Apple rolling out its long-anticipated “iRadio” service is the Cupertino company’s longtime resistance to paying advances to the major copyright holders. That, along with an initial lowball royalty offer to the record labels, has kept Apple’s service in a holding pattern, even as the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference approaches.

Instead of an up front assurance payment, Apple is said to be offering a combination of royalties per track streamed, a share of iRadio’s advertising revenue, and a guaranteed minimum payment if the previous two options prove insufficient. Universal Music may have already agreed to Apple’s terms, but Sony Music is thought to be the main holdout.

Google, meanwhile, is said to have agreed to pay advances in order to get its service out the door. Google’s choice to hew to the path worn by services like Spotify and Rdio — that of the plain subscription service with some radio and discovery elements — is also said to be more to the music labels’ liking. The labels, burnt early in the last decade by rampant file sharing, are looking to secure a steady revenue stream in exchange for their product, assuring that songwriters, engineers, publishers, and other shareholders continue to be paid.

Apple’s offering, on the other hand, is reportedly more of a hybrid service, blending elements of Internet radio with other on-demand features. The licensing agreements for such a service, sources say, must be built from the ground up, and those negotiations are part of what’s holding the service up.

In addition to Google’s All Access, Apple’s offering would join Spotify, Rdio, Microsoft’s Xbox Music, and others in the new generation of music discovery and consumption sources. The record labels are encouraged by the number of options consumers have to access their product of late. iTunes may have contributed greatly to the industry’s first revenue growth in years, but the labels have historically been wary of Apple’s overwhelming influence on their industry.

Source


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How To Get An Itunes Connect Account

iTunes Connect
The iTunes Connect log-in screen

Anyone who has ever wanted to distribute their own music knows how important being on the iTunes Store is. So, quite naturally, one might find themselves on Google searching for the following terms (for the most part):

One of the very first things you may come across is a web page from Apple saying you should get an iTunes Connect account. Well, let me assure you, this is a lot easier said than done! Right now, let’s not even get into the differences between the iTunes App, the iTunes Store, iTunes Connect, and iTunes Producer. We’ll move along under the assumption you have some type of understanding towards that…

First off, even as you’re applying, you probably don’t realize that the following 3 things are going to happen right after you apply:

  1. Apple is going to check whether or not you applied from an Apple Computer (like an iMac). If you applied from anything but an iMac then you can forget it! However, they won’t reject you immediately. That brings us to our second problem…
  2. It’s going to take them 3-6 months to get back to you on whether or not you are “worthy” enough to have an iTunes Connect account, and there’s a 99.9% chance that you are not worthy. Which brings us to our thrid point…
  3. Apple is going to do a background check. I don’t mean a criminal background check or anything of that sort. I mean, they are going to research you and your “company” to see if you “qualify”. Chances are you don’t and here’s why…

Now, I don’t mean to put a dark cloud over your head and discourage your efforts but facts are facts. Apple prefers to deal with big name companies and people who know what they’re doing. In order for Apple to consider you a distributor, they’ll be looking at some key things. Here’s some questions you should be asking yourself before you bring yourself before “The Great Oz”… I mean Apple…

  • How long have you been in the music distribution business? – If you’re just starting out in this field then there’s no way in hell Apple’s going to consider you a distributor worthy of an iTunes Connect account. Most of the distributors Apple deals with have been in the music business for decades and even the digital distribution companies have been hovering around since 2003 when the iTunes Store was first opened.
  • How many artists do you represent?  – How many artists are represented within your catalog? If it’s less than 300 artists then there’s no way in hell Apple’s going to consider you a distributor worthy of an iTunes Connect account. Most distributing labels have 1,000s of artists in their catalog.
  • How many songs are in your catalog?  – If it’s less than 2,000 then there’s no way in hell Apple’s going to consider you a distributor worthy of an iTunes Connect account. I’d say 2,000 tracks is the bare minimum and you have to realize that some of these distribution companies have millions of tracks from thousands of artists in their catalog.
  • Are you business savvy? – Do you speak “the language”? The people at Apple (especially the ones working at iTunes) are not stupid. They can spot a fake when they see one. If you fill out applications and send them messages which might make it appear as if you have trouble understanding and using “the lingo” then you can forget doing any business in the music business, and that goes double for the music distribution business.
  • Do you know how to properly format audio and image files? – If you don’t submit files to Apple’s specs then there’s no way in hell Apple’s going to consider you a distributor worthy of an iTunes Connect account.

So, after all is said and done, you would’ve probably wasted 3-6 months of your life wondering why Apple rejected your application. What they’ll do next is ask you to sign up with an aggregator (distribution company) that deals with independent artists and labels. Obviously, Apple would much rather deal with a larger company with a delivery system already in place than to deal with a new fish who doesn’t know what they are doing. You may see them suggest the following companies: ADED.US, CD Baby, TuneCore, ReverbNation, etc.. Of those companies, ADED.US (http://www.aded.us) (a/k/a ADEDistribution) is by far the cheapest and easiest to work with for those of you starting out. They have plenty of information to guide you through the distribution process, including how to properly format your files. The other distributors can get a bit pricey and they tend to move a bit slower when it comes to processing your material and making royalty payments back to you.

If you were to somehow manage to get an iTunes Connect account then Apple would expect you to do the following:

  • Sign contracts (with proper banking info) with all the various stores in all the various countries
  • Have UPC and ISRC numbers for each and every song and album in your catalog
  • You would be given access to an app called iTunes Producer to help you send (deliver) your catalog to the iTunes Store for ingestion. Apple will expect you to know how to fully operate this software before you can successfully send them your catalog.

Well, I hope this article has helped clarify the “do’s and don’ts” versus the “needs and wants” of what it’s like trying to get an iTunes Connect account. Y’all come back now, ya hear?!?

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